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Updated: June 29, 2013 11:35 IST

Dropout-turned-topper, bags fifth rank in UPSC exams

Vasudha Venugopal
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Following what he believed in, R. Karthikeyan dropped out of IIT-M and attempted the UPSC’s engineering services exams
Following what he believed in, R. Karthikeyan dropped out of IIT-M and attempted the UPSC’s engineering services exams

Even amidst the jubilation last week, the 21-year-old civil engineering graduate and State topper from Anna University reflected on the nature of the education system he had endured

When he was 12 years old, R. Karthikeyan attempted to steal a book titled, ‘Science tells you why’ from his school library.

Bored with his textbooks and knowing his father, a farmer, would not be able to afford illustrated books, he had set his sights on the science book. But Karthikeyan was caught in the act by a teacher, who beat him hard, and ever since, Karthikeyan hated school.

Last week, the 21-year-old civil engineering graduate from Anna University, bagged the fifth all-India rank in UPSC’ s engineering services exam. Even amidst the jubilation, the State-topper reflected on the nature of the education system he had endured.

“Most schools are like jails where students are regularly beaten,” Karthikeyan said. “I studied hard in class XII so that I could get into a college that was not like my school,” he said, recalling his days in a school near Salem, famous for producing board rankers.

Karthikeyan, who hails from Kalasamuthiram, a village near Salem, grew up in an agricultural household that was entirely dependent on his father’s earnings.

“I was never interested in school. All I used to look forward to was running back home to accompany my father with milk to the village market,” he said.

Despite his lack of interest, it was his father’s almost instinctive skill in measurements that inspired Karthikeyan to pursue civil engineering. “My father studied only till class IX but he is an expert at calculations. Be it digging a well, or constructing a borewell, my father is always consulted in the village, and I would observe the way he would mentally chalk out measurements and instruct workers,” he said.

Another reason he chose civil engineering was because he wanted to work on sites instead of in an office.

Last year, around this time, Karthikeyan had fulfilled the “dream of his life” — getting into an IIT for a postgraduate course. But after three months of studying structural engineering at IIT-Madras, he realised he was losing interest in his studies.

“It felt like I was not learning anything new. Since I was not studying properly, my father thought I would ruin my prospects. He asked me to get a job in order to understand the value of money,” Karthikeyan said.

Luckily for him, a PSU’s offer came by and he willingly accepted it. “I was not anxious after quitting IIT. It was the thrill of making it to IIT that was important. After that, the experience of studying there matters only if you want to get into research or a get a job in a good company. And during my stint at IIT-M I realised that this was not what I wanted to do,” Karthikeyan said.

The topper is now clearly excited, mainly because he got to choose his zone of work in the Indian Engineering Services – railways. After training for a year, he hopes to become an assistant engineer and lead a team of gang-men.

“Other toppers have gone either for public work or border roads, but for me, the railways hold a special charm,” he said, recalling his rare train trips to Salem and Chennai. “Until last year, I always travelled in unreserved compartments. Travelling by AC was a dream for me, which I fulfilled when I got my first salary. I have a long journey ahead now,” he said.

Congratulations, Karthikeyan! People like you will only make news! you are bound to go places unimaginable by others! Since, you got bored even in an IIT, I feel, it is going to be tough initially with politicians, contractors, middle men, other corrput officials, etc.,

My suggestion would be, to join government services for couple of yeas, save some money and then become an entrepreneur. You have all the qualities required to become a very big businessman!

from:  Ilango
Posted on: Jul 2, 2013 at 07:51 IST

Really Ur real life story inspiring the other people.
Congrats...sss. and I hope U will do the thing which will good for the
people of India.

from:  Ashok Ghodke
Posted on: Jul 1, 2013 at 13:56 IST

Congratulations on your achievement.....I also think like others here that you will get bored in PSU or you will not get a freed hand to do what you want at PSU. I would say private sector is the place to test your true potential. Alternatively, don't get stuck at engineering services, but go for civil services....I think a person of your calibre should know this.

from:  Mahatma
Posted on: Jun 29, 2013 at 21:02 IST

Good article and good luck. Hope he does not to get of languish in an government desk
job that curtails creativity and encourages paper pushing.

from:  Venkata Raman Aiyer
Posted on: Jun 29, 2013 at 19:23 IST

May God give him the happiness he lost in his childhood.He should strive to help at least 10 poor students to achieve in their life what he achieved.Let this story a big inspiration for others who are in adverse conditions.

from:  Nasar
Posted on: Jun 29, 2013 at 18:20 IST

Inspiring !! Congrats :)

from:  Naveen
Posted on: Jun 29, 2013 at 14:52 IST

The candid interview is excellent.But UPSC is not meant for brilliants. If a statistics is taken only 1% of the most suitable candidate will be in the final list.After the selection , even that 1% will not join the service .

Posted on: Jun 29, 2013 at 14:28 IST

Great decision Karthikeyan.You are a free spirit and you are more mature to take a right decision.

from:  Yuvaraj Thandu
Posted on: Jun 29, 2013 at 13:48 IST

In my humble opinion, I disagree that he would stop learning in IIT. He
could have been a bit more patient. Most will disagree, but I personally
would never want a talented guy to get into PSU and work with less than
50% efficiency of what he is capable of.

from:  Deepak
Posted on: Jun 29, 2013 at 11:42 IST

Very true education pattern should change! Kudos to Mr.Karthik.

from:  Ganesh Manoharan
Posted on: Jun 29, 2013 at 11:22 IST

Hurrah to The Hindu. This is the first time I see a news story reporting a success in the Engineering Service Exam. THe Hindu can do something in a small measure to bring about a transformation in this respect by highlighting achievements in other services too while moderating the hype about the IAS.

from:  R.Sundaram
Posted on: Jun 29, 2013 at 10:00 IST

Congratulate sir, for achieving your path of your dreams....

from:  Pratik V. Mane
Posted on: Jun 29, 2013 at 09:44 IST
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